A couple of years ago, I came down with a nasty cold or flu and found myself too sick to cook or go to the store for easy food. I survived on crackers and toast for several days, vowing to never be caught unprepared again. When I regained my strength, I found a small box and filled it with cans of chicken noodle soup, fruit cups, and easy mac & cheese. That box has come in handy on several occasions, even when I wasn’t sick, but too busy to worry about cooking a good meal. (more…)
A Cheesy Celebration February 9, 2015
I love cheese. I’m fascinated with how many different types of cheese there are and want to try them all. A couple of years ago, when it was just me and my parents for Christmas, we started a new Christmas Eve tradition. We went to Candlelight Service, came home to a spread of hors d’oeuvres-chocolate caramel popcorn, spinach dip, cheese, crackers, and glog- then watched a movie. It’s a nice quiet evening to reflect on what Christmas is really about.
This year, I noticed that the Aldi I shop at started having specialty cheeses a few weeks before Christmas. I bought up every one of them for our Christmas Eve nosh. We had Jarlsberg, Parmesan Regiano, Prima Donna, Tomato Basil, Jalapeño Jack, Fontina, and Cranberry White Cheddar. I’ve been wanting to try the Parmesan Regiano since I read about it in one of Frances Mayes’ books. It wasn’t my favorite as a stand-alone cheese, but it is great in cooking.
As you might imagine, with all of this cheese we couldn’t possibly eat it all in one night. Mom found a recipe that used the Fontina along with a Marscapone cheese, to make what is basically a fancy mac & cheese. The recipe sounded so good, I used it in the book I was working on, Spring Dawn, and when I finished the first draft we made a batch to celebrate. Shredding all of the Fontina seemed to take forever, but it was worth it. Next time I think I would add some bacon bits though, to give it a little more kick.
The left over Jarlsberg has made a wonderful evening snack and now I have three more varieties to snack on from Ireland, Wales, and Britain. I better have a few slices then get back to work.
Bakingpalooza December 20, 2014
We’ve had almost two glorious weeks of cool weather here in Florida. I’ve enjoyed having the windows open and a fresh breeze drifting through the house. It was on one these lovely days last week that I decided to crank up the oven and do my Christmas baking. I had several recipes I wanted to get through so I started as soon as I finished my coffee and bagel.
My parents have been staying with me since Thanksgiving, so mom offered to run out to the store to pick up a couple of items I didn’t have on hand. While she was out, I made the easy cookies, the ones from a mix that didn’t require anything extra. I found a pumpkin spice cookie mix that I have fallen in love with and I decided to add some chocolate chips. They were the perfect addition and I tucked some of the cookies into a tin for my parents’ drive back to North Carolina.
The house quickly filled with the smells of fresh baked treats. By the time I turned off the oven I had five types of cookies, gingerbread cupcakes, and vanilla-sour cream tea loaves. My kitchen is tiny, so having more than one person working at a time can be tight, but toward the end of the day, mom, dad and I were all working together to clean up the dishes and put everything away.
I hope you have a wonderful Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year with those you love.
Birthdays and Markets August 29, 2014
Sunday was my mom’s birthday so I flew to North Carolina to spend the weekend with her. The moment I stepped outside the airport I was welcomed by a cool breeze and the fresh, woodsy scent that always makes me smile and fills my heart with peace. I inhaled deeply while I waited for mom and dad to arrive from the nearby McDonalds and could feel the muscles in my body unwinding.
There weren’t any real plans for the weekend, but I was looking forward to visitng the Farmer’s Market Saturday morning. I was delighted to find out it was customer appreciation day and there were tons of free samples- garlic cloves, organic coffee, pastries, homemade pesto, homemade soaps, there was even a chance to win $200 worth of fresh produce and a fresh pie of our choosing. Sadly we didn’t win.
My own hometown has been trying to get a farmer’s market off the ground, but with only one produce vendor and a handful of other non-food related booths, it hasn’t gained much traction. This North Carolina market, though, it was what I always envisioned. Knots of people gathered between each booth to catch up the week’s events; multiple farmers with their fresh-picked crops; a table piled high with delicious-looking homemade bread that reminded me of a scene from a French movie; a cooler with fresh, free-range chickens; a table of fresh pastries, a lady with homemade soaps and other bath products, and even flower vendors. We bought some ears of corner and a couple of huge tomatoes before wandering into some nearby antique shops. Looking back now, I’m surprised that I can’t remember any sounds or smells and can only guess my eyes were so overwhelmed all of my other senses were dulled.
That evening I had a yummy tomato sandwhich, and was actually able to tell a difference between this tomato and those from my own garden. I had read that basil is an excellent companion plant and added one to my tomato area. There definitely is a difference.